Friday, June 21, 2013

June 21st: One of the Most Important Days Of The Year !

June 21st is one of the most important days of the year ? Why you may ask? Is it because of the summer solstice, perhaps? No, although we can always use a bit more sunshine! Two hundred and twenty five years ago today our Constitution was ratified by Congress.And while that alone is cause for celebration, it was the ratification of this living document that included (for me) one of the most important clauses of all within its hallowed words. 

Specifically I am speaking about Article 1, Section 2, of the Constitution which included the phrase:
[An] Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.
Congress first met in 1789, and the first national census was held in 1790.
According to the, there was actually some debate about whether, how, and on what timetable a census should have been held. In early 1790, several members of Congress argued against a census prior to the next election. Some in the Congress, who advocated an immediate census, noted that those who did not want one were the people from states which were generally regarded as being over-represented in the Congress based on the initial figures provided for in the Constitution. Others were concerned about the questions to be asked in the census, while others felt that more questions should be asked to get a better picture of the citizenry.
The final bill, Statute 2 of March 1, 1790, provided that census marshals and assistants be appointed. The marshals were directed to:
cause the number of the inhabitants within their respective districts to be taken; omitting in such enumeration Indians not taxed, and distinguishing free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, from all others; distinguishing also the sexes and colours of free persons, and the free males of sixteen years and upwards from those under that age.
Here is a sample of what was in the 1790 Census form used for hand recording population data.
Click to Enlarge

The Census act directed that the names of the heads of families be recorded, the number of white males sixteen and older, the number of white males under sixteen, the number of white females, the number of all other free persons, and the number of slaves. Census day was set at the first Monday in August, 1790. Failure to cooperate with a marshal or assistant was punishable by a $20 fine.
Today, the controlling law for the U.S. Census is Title 13 of the U.S. Code That law required that the census be conducted on or about April 1, 1980, and every ten years after that. The returns must be made available within nine months in order to apportion members of the House of Representatives to each of the states. In the intervening years the law requires the Census Bureau to gather statistics about the residents of the United States for use by Congress. The law states that the count done in 1980 and every ten years thereafter shall be an actual headcount. The count done in the intervening years need not be an actual headcount, but may use statistical sampling methods to get a reasonable approximations of a head count.

So June 21st is a good day to celebrate more daylight, our Constitution, and the establishment of the US census!